David Jones, artist and poet (1895-1974) begins his PREFACE TO THE ANATHEMATA :

'I have made a heap of all that I could find.' (1) So wrote Nennius, or whoever composed the introductory matter to Historia Brittonum. He speaks of an 'inward wound' which was caused by the fear that certain things dear to him 'should be like smoke dissipated'. Further, he says, 'not trusting my own learning, which is none at all, but partly from writings and monuments of the ancient inhabitants of Britain, partly from the annals of the Romans and the chronicles of the sacred fathers, Isidore, Hieronymous, Prosper, Eusebius and from the histories of the Scots and Saxons although our enemies . . . I have lispingly put together this . . . about past transactions, that [this material] might not be trodden under foot'. (2)

(1) The actual words are coacervavi omne quod inveni, and occur in Prologue 2 to the Historia.
(2) Quoted from the translation of Prologue 1. See The Works of Gildas and Nennius, J.A.Giles, London 1841.

09 December 2013

Beyond Beholding

We were recently alerted to the online and free
Journal of Art Historiography.

In the December 2013 Issue Number 9, by the titles alone, two articles were of immediate interest; confirmed in the reading. Ian Burn’s Questions: Art & Language and the rewriting of Conceptual Art history by David Pestorius : click here
Abstract: In the 1970s, the Australian artist Ian Burn (1939–1993) was a key member of the pioneering Conceptual Art group Art & Language. However, since Burn’s untimely death in 1993 his name and important contribution to Conceptual Art have been slipping away in official accounts of Art & Language history published in the context of career-defining exhibitions in major museums. What might be at stake in minimizing the inputs of an artist who had been central to the Art & Language project? And what are the consequences of this short-circuiting of museum scholarship? This paper charts the writer’s investigation of this art historical manipulation. It also reflects on how Art & Language has reacted when called upon to account for their actions. It is a cautionary tale to be sure, but it is one that raises important ethical and legal questions about the role and responsibility of major art museums having effectively colluded with living artists to re-construct art history.
And ‘Hundreds of eyes’: Beyond Beholding in Riegl's ‘Jakob van Ruysdael’ (1902) by Christopher P. Heue. 

Today, we focus on the latter. To read the full article click here. Below is an extract.

‘Hundreds of eyes’: Beyond Beholding in Riegl's ‘Jakob van Ruysdael’ (1902)

Christopher P. Heuer

... Jacob van Ruisdael, meanwhile, emerges as exemplary of the third phase, in works like the Great Beech Forest, where human activity has been expunged. It is, as Riegl puts it, sheer looking that becomes the subject of the work:
one perceives almost nothing but trees, each of them comes forward as an individual…None of the trees has that insistent tactile dimension - as experienced on every walk in a forest - that transfixes the eye, taking up the entire visual field and thus never graspable at once. And yet, between the trees, the bright sky looks at the beholder with hundreds of eyes. 
Tree and sky, anthropomorphized, thus acknowledge the beholder, almost socially. And indeed, the mutual balance between Ruisdael’s subjectivity and that of the purported beholders’ - eye to eyes - is precisely what Riegl tracked in the giant Gruppenportr√§t article from the same year (1902), a balance based on jointly deferential Aufmerksamkeit, or attention, between observer and sitter. The trees work like Rembrandt’s glaring syndics. ‘…all of Dutch painting can be called, ‘ Riegl writes near the close of the Ruisdael essay, ‘a painting of attention.’

 For this attention, Riegl explains, is uniquely harmonious in Ruisdael’s own ‘mature’ phase, where certain paintings’ design functions almost as an allegory for Dutch egalitarianism: ‘individual things are always coordinated. No single one is emphasized at the expense of another…sky and earth are completely equivalent.’ Riegl writes. This pictorial relationship within the painting models a relationship ostensibly outside the painting between beholder and actual artwork. The painting, that is, anchors a visual transaction. And just as the staffage is depicted in the act of calmly staring at trees, dunes, and water, so is the human beholder - placed before the picture - made aware of their own silent observational performance:
…we see a wanderer sitting and resting contemplatively. [...] Any remnant of action as an expression of will has been done away with; what the artist represents and the beholder experiences in now pure sensation.8 
What the best Ruisdael pictures do, Riegl writes, is engage a ‘pure enjoyment of looking.’ Importantly, this is a looking cleaved from what Riegl calls the ‘expression’ of some extrinsic value - freed from duty to narrative or artistic will. The beholder’s looking remains engaged, however, even without Wille – it is an active attention, but one that never seeks to overpower its subject...
Although interestingly/curiously the article doesn't picture 'the Great Beech Forest', we reckon it is probably this, also known as The Great Forest. 

A Person Looks At A Work Of Art/
someone looks at something ...

Regarding : " - eye to eyes - "
Theatre of the Actors of Regard
The Battle of the Blink (continued)

A Person Looks At A Work Of Art/
someone looks at something ...